Title: What Difference Does It Make
Disclaimer: "Twilight" and all related characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Word Count: 3811
Summary: The second she had laid eyes on his devastated face, she had forgotten everything else and simply raised her arms in a childlike manner. He hadn't hesitated to gather her into him, familiar apologies falling from his lips.
Warnings: Post Eclipse, Breaking Dawn never happened. Angst!
Author's Notes: I hope you enjoy, adair7! Also many thanks to my beta shinyfairylight.
When the blood is gone, everything changes. The need blankets everything, and irritation sets in more easily – a brain obsessed with getting blood is suspicious, believing everyone, everything is out to prevent her from getting what she wants the most. She becomes clever, thinking of ways to get away without even consciously registering what she's doing.
It was the single most gratifying moment of her existence. It was so satisfying that the very small part of her mind that was still coherent was incredulously wondering why she has tried so hard to resist this.
Human blood. Suddenly Edward's analogies from the early days of their relationship made perfect sense. Animal blood was stale, warm beer. Human blood was the finest wine, filling her in a way that nothing had since she had been changed, making every sense sharper and every nerve tingle.
It took her a while to come down from her high, as she unconsciously broke the bones in the now dead body as she literally tried to squeeze every drop out. Still her mouth continued to lap at the man's ravaged neck, until finally the mesmerising scent of the blood had all but disappeared.
Then she dropped the body, horror and guilt beginning to wash over as she took a few steps back. She stumbled for the first time since her change and fell back against a tree, sliding downwards and unable to take her eyes away from the mangled corpse in front of her.
Knowing her hands were stained, she fisted handfuls of snow in each one. She needed to feel something clean and untainted in her hands. But snow didn't melt in her palms anymore, and now it was tarnished too.
It wouldn't be long before someone found her, and that gave her some degree of calm. She wanted to be away from this body, but she couldn't move. She couldn't leave him here alone, this man she didn't know but who she had killed without a second thought.
Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back to lean against the bark of the tree. Snow began to fall again, slowly covering up the signs of the short struggle. Slowly covering up the dead human and the vampire sitting not three feet away. The vampire who was so still she wasn't even breathing, and who didn't bother to shake off the snow as it landed on her frigid skin and didn't melt.
She was surprised to find at how easy the acceptance came. The inevitability of this. Even while she was thinking must try harder next time, a part of her was gleefully looking forward to the next time the inevitable would happen again.
She wanted to shut that part up.
Ever since becoming a vampire, Bella had been ruled by her emotions, and Edward had taken the brunt – both the good and the bad. Her happiness, her contentment at finally being with him forever, and her passion for him had been enough to be able to cope with the less pleasant aspects. Like her mood swings, and the way the thirst would suddenly hit, or the first time she went into a rage when they denied her human blood.
It had been hard – impossible – for him to watch. The only thing that kept him going were those good moments and the knowledge that this was temporary. Alice's visions, Jasper's experiences. Just typical newborn behaviour. She was still the Bella he loved. And despite the fact that she was more durable than before, he had every intention of keeping her safe and protected, and never putting her in a situation in which she could possibly harm others.
But he had failed, like he had failed her so many other times, and his thoughts were a mess as he sped towards his wife, having left Alice and Jasper far behind. He knew he was too late to stop her and yet still he pushed himself faster, running a race that he'd lost before he had even started.
"I'm sorry, Edward."
It was all she had said to him. The second she had laid eyes on his devastated face, she had forgotten everything else and simply raised her arms in a childlike manner. He hadn't hesitated to gather her into him, familiar apologies falling from his lips.
She didn't want to hear them. This wasn't his fault. It was hers. Her decision to become a vampire, her burden to bear. A mistake she had made.
As he carried her back home after a whispered conversation with Alice and Jasper – who remained behind to begin the clean up – she curled up into his chest, comforted by his scent. Each step that took them away from the scene made her feel better. This had been a mistake, one she would learn from. She wouldn't take as long as she had before, in those confusing months before the wedding. She would get over this.
All she could hope for now is that Edward would too.
One month, two months. Days slipped by and she hardly registered them, trying what she could to remove the morose expression from his face.
His fault, his fault.
She was tired of hearing it. And the argument had stemmed from her comment of "The world doesn't revolve around Edward Cullen. Not everything is your fault."
Her tone had been acidic, and she had been just as shocked as he as the words left her. She hadn't meant to say it – she hadn't meant to lash out at him. All she wanted to do was make him realise it was her doing, and to move on so they could live their lives.
She had. Why couldn't he?
Apprehensive thoughts wound through her head, and she was more careful with her words from then on, even in her anger. Fear that she would drive him away stilled her tongue. Most of the time.
Time plodded on.
"I hardly know you anymore, Bella."
And she had still, terrified that he couldn't love what she had become. That his love was only for Bella Swan, the human, and Isabella Cullen, the vampire, would never hold his heart.
She was surprised to look at a calendar and see how much time had passed. Her eyes were no longer crimson, almost the tawny colour of the rest of her family.
Her treatment was the same, being handled with child gloves. No, she didn't want to slip up and kill someone else. But she wasn't an invalid, and she wasn't incompetent.
Edward was still overreacting, and she was suffering from cabin fever. For the first time since she had met Edward, she wanted to be alone, just for a little while. He, or another member of their family, was always there. Her thirst was always monitored by Jasper, her future by Alice. Emmett loomed if needed, his strength able to take her down.
She was surprised by her frustration, these feelings just another indication of how much she had changed since she had been a human.
"Why can't you understand, Bella?" Edward's voice was weary, and his fingers pinched the bridge of his nose in a gesture she had seen a lot recently.
"Why can't I understand that you intend on keeping me trapped in the middle of nowhere for the rest of forever?" She winced slightly at her words – her tone was harsher than she had intended. Most of the time she tried to keep her frustrations to herself, but self control in general was coming slowly to her. "What happened was a mistake, Edward. You can't let it rule our lives forever."
He looked up at her then, finally, and she caught the quick flash of emotion on his face before he assembled his poker face.
She hated that face.
"We can't take any risk, Bella. Not with people's lives. And it won't be forever." His masked expression faded slightly as he spoke, becoming slightly calculating. Swiftly he moved from his sitting position at the opposite side of the room until he stood directly in front of her, cradling her face in his hands like it was a fragile piece of china.
Just another something that irritated her, and she was about to remind him that she wasn't breakable anymore, but then his breath blew across her face and distracted her from her grumpy thoughts. How he affected her that way certainly hadn't changed. Edward took quick advantage of it to kiss her, and her hands automatically fisted into his hair to draw him closer. As the kiss deepened, all mental thought ceased – for both of them – as Edward backed her up to the bed.
Later, she would be annoyed about this – his methods of distraction. She just couldn't ever bring herself to complain at the time.
Later, she was annoyed, and the bliss she had felt from the sex quickly faded, and she forgot about the whispered words of love.
"It's been months, Edward! I'm going to go crazy when I smell a human again because I've had no exposure!"
He glared at her with a disapproving look. "I think you've had enough exposure for a while."
"One time! Once!" She was growing desperate – somehow, before, she had thought that becoming a vampire would fix all their problems, but now everything seemed to be slowly disintegrating and she didn't know what to do. They were supposed to be equals now. "Look at me, Edward." He didn't, and a tiny growl escaped her. "Look at what I am. We all knew this was a possibility, that it probably in-"
"Don't you dare say it was inevitable! It should never have happened. I should never have..." Edward trailed off, looking into the distance with a pensive look on his face.
Something inside her cold body froze further.
"You should never have what?"
He shook his head and replied in a whisper. "It doesn't matter."
She couldn't speak, terror seeping into her every pore. It wasn't the first time she wondered if he regretted changing her, but never before had he come so close to verbalising it. She had no doubt – it couldn't be anything else.
Old insecurities came back, along with the most vivid of her human memories. The memory of being left, of him telling her he didn't love her. Would he leave her again? Or would he feel obligated to stay?
A strangled choke escaped her as she tried to say something – she didn't even know what - and Edward finally looked at her. His mask was back in place and reminding her so much of that evening that she couldn't bear it. Whatever he was going to say to her now, she couldn't stand to hear it.
She turned and ran from the room just as his mask broke and grief stretched across his face.
For the first time, he didn't follow.
She didn't know what to think. All her earlier thoughts about wanting to be alone were gone, and now the only thing she wanted was for Edward to be beside her again. Terror was still running through her that he was leaving her, and that his absence now was just confirmation. Still, she had thought he would follow out of obligation, to prevent any more slip ups.
But no, she was out alone in the Alaskan wilderness for the first time since she had killed that man.
It was easy enough to think about it now. She had tried not to let Edward see how quickly she had gotten over it – not when it was still something he so clearly couldn't get over. And certainly not if it made him think less of her.
She was finding it hard to breath, even though she didn't need to, and she collapsed not a great distance from the house, allowing the pain to consume her.
For the first time, she wanted to be able to cry or to sleep. She wanted to be able to escape or have a release of some kind.
She was taken from her misery the sound of someone approaching. That wasn't what surprised her – it was who it was, and she found herself tensing up as Jasper approached, having to wondering at why he, out of everyone, had followed her. At one point Bella had thought she and Jasper would become closer after her change, but it had never materialised. He had hovered, monitoring her emotions at Edward's insistence, and she knew that he had been as exasperated with her husband as she had been.
But on the whole, Jasper still remained a bit of a mystery. He, and Rosalie too, were distant to her. As close as she was with Alice and Emmett, the Hales still remained on the outer edges of her existence.
Pulling her knees up to her chest, she rested her chin upon them, saying nothing as Jasper appeared in front of her and calmly sat crossed legged, facing her. There was silence for a minute, and Bella guessed that he was tasting her mood, although he did nothing to soothe her confusion, her heartache, her anger.
She didn't know why, but she felt a ball build up inside her, exploding out in uncharacteristic bitterness as an old human memory floated to her, surprising him with the ice in her voice.
"Happy you're winning your bet?"
Jasper's brow furrowed for a second before he recalled what she was talking about. "We never meant any harm by it, Bella." His voice was soft, calming even when he wasn't using his powers.
Her eyes lowered in shame. She knew that; she wasn't even sure where that comment had come from. Was she going to start lashing out at everyone?
"It's okay, Bella." His voice was still no more than a murmur, and then he began to use his powers, trying to dispel her feelings of shame. But her gaze snapped back up to his then.
"No, it's not okay, Jasper! I killed someone, and I don't even care about that anymore. I care about the fact that my husband can't let it go and that..." That he hates me for it, that he hates what I am now, she finished mentally. Her voice lowered to a whisper. "I am a monster."
Jasper regarded her carefully. She was as bad as Edward – who's feelings of self loathing he was very familiar with. But Bella was different, in that she measured her level of self worth on what she thought Edward thought of her. But even now she misinterpreted everything, and still had no real clue to the depth of his feelings or to the fact that he practically worshipped the ground she walked on. Edward's issues were with himself.
He had to sigh. They made quite a pair. After the argument that everyone had heard, Jasper had made a decision to talk to the sister he still didn't really know. Alice had gone to distract Edward, and Jasper had been glad to get away from his feelings of distraught, grief, self hatred and guilt only to find Bella feeling almost exactly the same.
But her guilt wasn't at killing someone. It was at the fact that she no longer felt remorse for it when she knew she should. It was at what she thought she was doing to Edward, when in fact Edward's turmoil came from his inability to allow himself to be happy.
Jasper sometimes thought they were both ridiculous, but Edward wouldn't be Edward if he didn't overreact to everything, and Bella wouldn't be Bella if she didn't blame herself for it.
But no matter what he thought, Jasper didn't like to see any of his family hurting. So, despite Edward's less than favourable reactions to his previous attempts to help, he had decided to try assist them. He knew speaking to someone objectively could sometimes help.
He was also aware of the fact that he had distanced himself from Bella, and thought he should start making up for it.
"Bella." He relaxed, allowing himself to relax her too, and leaned back against a tree. She peeked at him through a curtain of hair, and he visibly saw her muscles unclench. Unconsciously, she mimicked his stance, crossing her legs and straightening her back, clearing ready to listen to what he would say. Underneath his artificial calm, Jasper could still feel her panic, and he knew it wouldn't be fully gone until she spoke to Edward again.
"You know, aside from Carlisle and Rosalie, all of us have tasted human blood. And even Rosalie has killed." He monitored her reactions carefully, her eyes widening as she clearly realised something. "You know about my past, and Edward's. But Alice, Emmett and Esme have all...made mistakes." Jasper paused to let that sink in, registering her surprise.
And Bella was surprised. "Even Esme?" She couldn't imagine it – sweet, mothering Esme, killing someone.
Jasper was solemn. "Even Esme. They all got over it fairly quickly, and I don't mean that callously. They all mourn, certainly. But it's easy to see how human drinkers do it with no remorse, isn't it?" Bella nodded, her eyes still wide. "It's different for myself and Edward, with our gifts." For a moment Jasper's mind went to a darker time, and his gaze stared off into the trees. But he wasn't seeing anything of the Alaskan landscape. But it was only brief, and his attention was soon back on Bella as she shifted uncomfortably, guessing at what was passing through his mind. "There's nothing wrong with you, Bella. If you continue the way you are - following Carlisle's lifestyle - these few months will be the most vampiric you'll ever be. Accidents can happen, but Edward is prove that you can stop if you're strong enough. And you will be, in time."
A small flare of confidence went through her then, and a determination that pleased him. Feeling this was enough for now - and knowing the person she really needed to speak to was probably pacing holes into the wooden floor back at the house – Jasper stood, ready to leave.
"We should get back." She didn't move immediately, the previous burst of positive attitude starting to disappear already. Jasper moved beside her, extending a hand like the southern gentleman he was. She accepted it, and pulled herself up, but didn't immediately let go.
"Jasper?" Her voice was so hesitant, unsure. It surprised him. And as he glanced down at her hand gripping his, he realised the last thing she looked or sounded like was a vampire.
Turning to face her fully, he cocked his head to indicate he was listening, and her hand dropped, going to grasp her other arm tightly.
"Do you think Edward made the right decision? Changing me?" She wasn't sure why she had to ask, or why it mattered so much to her for Jasper's approval. And she knew he had voted yes, that night so long ago. But she still couldn't understand his way of thinking.
Jasper had no hesitation in his answer.
Bella's mouth dropped open slightly as she gazed at him, surprised by his ready reply and the sure tone behind it.
"Quite frankly, I think he was an idiot not to change you when he realised you loved him too. However," Jasper's lips curled up in a wry smile. "Edward wouldn't be Edward if he didn't do things the difficult way."
She pouted slightly, cheered by Jasper's words even while she couldn't help but feel irritated at his slight towards her husband. Much to her dismay, he gave a rare warm laugh as he correctly guessed the reasoning behind her emotions.
"We should get back, Edward's impatient to speak with you." He had to close his eyes for a brief second at the tumult of panic that overtook her at those words, doing what he could to combat it, wishing he could do more.
Even when her blood was gone, it was still the most important thing. It's absence and the difference it made meant more than Edward was willing to admit.
He still loved her, of course, but he was all too aware of what he had stolen, what she had lost. And everytime he looked at her, that love was marred by his guilt. The memory that she had killed someone because of his selfishness haunted him like a constant waking nightmare.
When Jasper returned with Bella, the anger and frustration he had previously felt evaporated. Jasper's thoughts relayed their conversation, and his opinions.
She thinks you're going to leave her, I'm sure.
That had been his parting shot, before leaving the two of them alone. Edward stilled, mind running in high speed, and then met Bella's anxious gaze. For a second he saw it all – the girl she was, the vampire she became. She was still the Bella he loved, altered slightly, perhaps. And that would be enough for him to stay, to give it all time.
"I'll never leave you."
She didn't resist as he pulled her into his arms – not a gesture meant to distract her, like before. But a real show of comfort, and his arms tightened around her as she let out a dry sob. She believed him because she wanted to – because she had to. There was no point to any of this without him.
His long fingers trailed through her hair, soothing her as her own hands gripped his shirt roughly, tearing the fabric, tearlessly crying against him. The stood in silence for a long time before she calmed and he sighed and pressed his lips to her forehead.
Perhaps it was just as the rest of the family told him, he mused, and all they needed was time. Time that they had.
He knew now, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would never leave her, no matter how much the guilt ate away at him. The responsibility was his; his penance for taking her humanity, watching how she had changed and how she suffered. It was his doing, his burden, and all he could do was watch even though he felt like it was destroying them both.
"I love you," she whispered, pulling his lips to hers. This time she needed the distraction, and she felt rather than saw the smile that crossed his face.
It was genuine, too. Her touch still sent the same electric spark as before.
And that gave him reason to hope, just a little bit. A tiny beacon of light in the distance, that might just be enough to stop them both from drowning.